is the first time that I have collaborated to write a blog post but
it seemed very appropriate to do so in this instance! The
first weekend in September took me to a little village called
Drayton St Leonard, near Oxford, to teach a class at the wonderful
new studio of my friend Arthur Green. Both Arthur and I write blog
posts hence the decision to combine forces for this one.
many years working together organising the Society of Bookbinders
International Bookbinding Competition Hannah Brown and Arthur Green
once more joined forces for the inaugural workshop at Green’s
Books. Hannah hosted a two-day workshop on embroidering a leather
adding to Arthur’s own programme of classes. The workshop was held at
Arthur’s studio in Oxfordshire on
September 2016. A mixed group of bookbinders, conservators and
librarians filled the studio and were treated to tuition by Hannah
with demonstrations of the techniques she uses to create her
distinctive style of fine binding. The group also had a rare
opportunity to see the many sample boards that Hannah has amassed
over her career which document all of the fifty or more fine bindings
that she has created.
the course of the weekend Hannah took the participants through the
process of making a limp, multi-section, leather-bound notebook
– approximately A6 in size. The materials were all prepared in
advance and supplied on the day. It is possible to add very
attractive surface decoration to bindings with simple techniques such
as applying coloured leather onlays and sewn detail and the course
was planned to cover these aspects.
one started with work on a leather sampler, demonstrating
a number of the embroidery stitches that Hannah uses in her work.
Each student was given a piece of leather which they were asked to
draw a series of parallel lines on the reverse of to use as a guide
for each row of stitches. Hannah first started by pre-pricking a
series of holes along these lines through the leather with a bodkin
into some foam.
then went on to demonstrate each stitch as follows, labelling them
afterwards for reference: Running, Holbein, Back, Couching, Whipped
Running (three versions), Chain, Lazy Daisy, French Knots, Machine
Straight (two versions) and Machine Zig-zag. The participants tried
them each out in turn and were additionally given diagrams of each of
the stitches with their hand-outs.
process took most of the morning on the Saturday but provided a good
basis for referring to for the rest of the weekend when designing and
executing the notebook designs. The participants had been
asked to plan a simple design for the cover of their notebook in
advance, including areas for leather onlays, plus
some linear detail and areas that embroidery techniques could be
applied to. There were some great designs brought to the bench and
time was allocated on the Saturday morning to evaluate these to work
out how best way to apply the embroidered details.
the purpose of this post Hannah has interspersed some photos of the
demonstration notebook that she worked on over the course of the
weekend – a much simper version of one of the fine bindings she did
last year – into the notes from her hand-out (in italic font) to
show the process of making the notebooks.
hand-out started with a diagram of the notebook that was to be made
over the course of the weekend in order to illustrate some of the
terms in the making notes.
Your design should be drawn out in linear form and should be made up
of shapes that can be illustrated with leather cut-outs. It should
also include areas to utilise embroidery stitches.
Choose the following: your book leather, any colours you wish to use
in your design of the thinner onlay leather, your patterned paper and
Using tracing paper make a template of the leather by drawing around
the outline and also draw in the joint folds, in order to layout the
Draw your design onto the template. NB.
If you wish, your design can also feature on the back cover of the
book but avoid the central panel of the cover where the construction
threads will be.
Onto tracing paper, trace around any shapes that you want to have as
onlays and cut these out.
Cut two small triangles out of the body of these shapes and attach
these shapes to the reverse of the onlay leather using masking tape
through these triangles. NB.
Make sure you place your shape the correct way around so that the
shape will be the right orientation.
Cut out these shapes using either scissors or a scalpel and cutting
Remember to cut inside the drawn lines so that your shape stays the
same as the original.
Masking tape your book leather to a piece of greyboard.
Line up your template on top of the book leather and stick down on
one edge with masking tape.
10. EVA your leather pieces in place on the book leather using the
template as a guide and leave to dry. NB.
Don’t use too much glue as it squirts out of the sides. If you have
a large or complex shape you can glue these pieces in stages once you
have one section of the onlay adhered down into position.
Once you have glued down all of your leather onlays it is necessary
to back-pare the leather to ensure that they are flush with the body
leather of the cover. In order to do this, reverse the leather and
scrape away the raised leather with a French paring knife. NB.
On order to check whether you have taken enough leather away, lay the
leather so that the onlays are facing upwards and feel the if there
is any difference in level through a piece of thin paper.
You are now ready to start the embroidery phase of your binding. Pin
the tracing paper template on top of your leather ensuring that the
leather onlays are lined up with your design. Use this as a guide
through which to prick your sewing holes – starting with any
outlines that may feature in your design.
Choose which style of stitch and colour thread you wish to use for
the different sections of your design. I
commonly use two strands of Anchor Cross-stitch Cotton Embroidery
these threads ahead of using them with bees wax to aid the sewing and
to prevent the thread from going fluffy. NB.
This is a good time to refer to your leather sampler with the
different stitches to remind yourself of the possibiilties.
Start to build up the shapes and tie off the threads once you have
finished with each colour. NB.
Don’t put your holes too close together to prevent breaking through
Once the outlines have been done you can move on to building up the
more complex stitches to add depth to your design.
to note when embroidering leather:
your design onto tracing paper so that it can be viewed from both
as thin a needle as possible so your holes aren’t too big through
your threads so that they don’t become fluffy.
can change the weight and appearance of your stitches by using
different numbers of thread strands together.
can add sparkle to your design by weaving gold thread around your
a more uniform look use a sewing machine an if you want to get two
colours in the line chose a different coloured thread in the bobbin
and alter the tension.
can embroider over onlays to immediately add colour beneath your
UP YOUR BOOK
Once the embroidery is completed on your binding it is time to start
preparing this piece for making the cover of your book. Firstly, if
you choose to add ribbons ties this is the time to add them by making
two small incisions to the width of the ribbon at the distance shown
on the paper template.
Feed the ribbon through these incisions and either glue or tack back
in place with a small stitch. The cut end of the ribbon should be
secured with a dab of clear nail varnish to prevent fraying.
You are now ready to back your leather with the piece of patterned
paper. Paste the back of leather with EVA (this is done using a small roller) and stick down onto the oversize piece of paper, ensuring you don’t get any glue onto the ribbons. NB.
If you are adding any embroidered detail to your endpapers, make sure
you remember to do this before sticking the paper to the leather!
If the placement of your leather onto the paper is critical, make
sure you have drawn the outline of where the leather needs to get
placed down onto the endpaper before gluing.
Rub down throughly with a bone folder through a piece of silicone
release paper, ensuring that the paper is well adhered to the
leather. Once you are happy with the bond, place under a board and
weight with a piece of blotting paper and leave to dry.
Once dry, the excess patterned paper can be cut off with a scalpel. NB.
Be careful not to cut your ribbon ties at this point!
The next step is to cut the slot in the centre of the leather where
the sections are going to be sewn in place. This needs to be a slot
about 1mm wide to allow for the thickness of the section threads
It is also necessary to score and fold the leather where the joints
are. Do so by scoring a line using your bone folder in the paper side
of the leather piece and folding to 90 degrees.
Fold the paper you have for your pages in half and cut to size,
ensuring you have eight pages per section. NB.
All your papers are cut to size however it is important to cut the
paper in the right orientation for the correct grain direction.
To test the grain direction, hold the sheet the long
way and bend the middle, repeat holding the paper the short way.
Whichever shows the smaller curve or offers less resistance is the
10. Offer up the sections into the leather cover and pass through the slot in the cover where the sewing holes need to be.
Prick holes at these points through the sections with a bodkin. NB.
Use a bulldog clip to hold the pages together during this process if
Cut a piece of 25/3 linen bookbinding thread to 50 cm in length and wax using beeswax
Sew all of the layers together using the following sewing formation:
Tie off the ends with a double knot and trim off the edges.
Repeat for all six sections.
Choose a ribbon for the bookmark plus a button for the end.
Pierce two holes through the leather spine between the central two
Sew one end of the ribbon in place at this point and tie a button to
the other end of the ribbon, sealing the cut end of the ribbon with
some clear nail varnish.
Hannah and Arthur were
really pleased that everyone managed to finish their books over the
course of the two days – they had timed it just right! All the
notebooks used the methods Hannah had taught to great effect and
Arthur and she made sure they got a picture of the completed books
all together at the end of the weekend before they were whisked away
to their new homes.
graduated with a BA (Hons) in Three Dimensional Crafts from Brighton
University in 2004. She began studying Bookbinding during evening
classes at Brighton University before transferring to classes at The
Institute in London in 2005.
quickly established herself as one of the UK’s most prominent fine
binders after winning first prize in the 2008 Designer Bookbinders
Competition. Her work is now in many national institutions and is
sought out by private collectors.
specialises in fine bookbinding and other bespoke paper crafts. She
works with a variety of materials and found objects, creating unique
hand-crafted pieces from scratch. Due to her crafts background she is
also keen to incorporate alternative skills into her work including
metalwork, textiles, printmaking and woodwork. She likes playing with
colours and textures and creating depth on covers.
Hannah Brown and Arthur Green